Considering some of the latest diet trends and the title of this post, you’re probably expecting me to give you 3 easy steps to [fill in the blank]….lose 10 pounds in 1 week, get six pack abs, etc.
Well, that’s not what I’m going to do. Why? Because none of those things work. There is no easy solution or magic pill for health or weight loss. Let’s also keep in mind that weight loss does not always equal health. Yes, we have an obesity problem in this country. However, I’ve also noticed a frustrating trend, especially on Pinterest, where perfectly healthy people seem to think they have to look like a model from a catelog and undergo the latest cleanse or strict diet to get there.
If your goal is truly to be healthy, have more energy, and look your best, cutting out meat/dairy/gluten/sugar or going on a restrictive cleanse is not the answer. Here’s why:
1. Many restrictive diets may cause an initial weight loss, but this is only temporary. While some people may find that this initial “success” motivates them to continue down the path to a healthy lifestyle and continued weight loss, the majority of people quickly gain back any weight that was lost and more. Carbohydrate is your body’s main energy source and it is stored in the body in the form of glycogen. When you go on a restrictive diet/cleanse, your body must use its glycogen stores to provide the fuel necessary for normal functioning. Glycogen is stored with water and glycogen use = water loss, which makes up a large portion of the weight lost on these diets.
2. Your body does not need your help to “cleanse” itself. If you have a normally functioning liver, kidneys, and GI tract, your body is taking care of all the cleansing that it needs.
3. Deprivation is not maintainable. Health is a lifestyle. You can’t eat only fruits and vegetables for a day and expect it to make you a healthy person or result in lasting weight loss. That’s just not how the body works. And the same is true for the opposite! Having a day filled with less than healthy choices, which frequently happens on holidays or other large celebrations/gatherings, doesn’t completely derail an otherwise healthy lifestyle. You don’t have to shun desserts or your favorite macaroni and cheese to lose weight or improve your health. Eat a healthy diet 90% of the time and there is plenty of room for indulgences the other 10% of the time.
4. Too much restriction can also lead to a weight loss plateau as your body tries to hang on to every bit of energy it can get in order to maintain normal function. More is not always better when it comes to the amount of calories you cut from your diet or attempt to burn during exercise. A registered dietitian can help you determine your individualized calorie needs to reach your goals.
5. Supplements, powders, and pills simply cannot provide you with the energy and nutrients found in real foods. Even if the package says the product is packed with “15 servings of fruits and vegetables” or “2000% of your daily value for vitamin ____”. I could probably compile a book on this topic but, in a nutshell, you can’t isolate individual nutrients and expect them to have the same beneficial effects as they had when they were part of a whole food made up of thousands of compounds, some of which we haven’t even identified yet. There are also limitations to the amount of certain nutrients that can be absorbed at a time, so consuming 100+% of a nutrient at once usually does not equate to 100+% of that nutrient getting absorbed into your body and doing any good.
So, what is the best diet ever? One that includes all things in moderation and provides enough energy for your body to function properly.
Let’s face it. Everyone knows that fruits and vegetables are healthy and that eating Twinkies all day probably isn’t the best choice. So what keeps people from putting it into practice? It’s usually making the long-term commitment to investing in one’s health & taking the time to develop new habits that stand in the way. Guess what? That’s what registered dietitians are here for! We’re not here to be the food police but to help you set and achieve your goals in a way that is maintainable for the long-term.
I hope to start a post called Monday Meals that will show you a little bit of what this looks like by documenting the days meals to demonstrate that everything can fit into a balanced diet. Stay tuned!
[image used with permission from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics]